LETTER HOME: A MOTORBIKE AND A LIST OF DREAMS
Dear Family and Friends,
I am a man of many dreams. But you probably already knew that about me.
One of my favorite things to do is to pull out my well-loved moleskin notebook and make lists of these dreams. I am guilty of creating quixotic catalogues of places I’d like to visit and adventures I’d like to have, and the list is ever evolving and always augmenting.I should like very much to spend a couple months on a sailboat, cruising around the Mediterranean. It would be my pleasure to drive a beat-up caravan through Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. I get giddy at the thought of riding the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Beijing. If I could make a dollar off of each dream, I would have enough cash to fund my favorites.
Up there on this starry-eyed list is India, on a motorbike.
There is something special about rolling along a country road on two wheels. A bicycle is a great option, but the thrust of an engine between one’s legs is undeniably seductive. In his famous novel of value-explorations, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig talks about the immediacy of being on a motorbike. Whereas in a car, the passenger is removed from the surroundings, on a bike the traveler is vulnerable to the immediate environment: the wind, the rain, the temperature, the smells. Things becomes more tactile on a motorbike.
Back in Montreal, I spent my summers zipping around the city on a Honda scooter. Her name was Rhonda, and although she was considered meek in the world of motorized bikes (50 cc), she was all the power and style I needed. And when the wind blew in the right direction as we soared down Ave du Parc, if I tucked in my knees, together we would peak at 50 kms/hour. It was sort of like flying on a leaf blower.
Despite my appreciation for Rhonda, someday I knew I would graduate to something more potent.
When I was communicating with Cati, the project manager here at YogaGypsys, about a possible work-exchange stay, she mentioned having a 125 cc motorbike that would possibly be available. I salivated at the thought of zipping around the area on a bike. And a couple days after arriving, I was given a quick lesson on how to ride a ‘geared’ bike (as Rhonda was gear-less), and soon I was soaring (and roaring) by myself.
And so I began to plot an adventure.
On Friday night, I was sitting on the beach, watching the sun sinking over the Arabian Sea, when one of the maintenance guys, Suresh, from the yoga retreat approached me.
“Ghinjoo. You. Chello. Motorbike.”
Luckily, after a couple of weeks here, I’ve learned how to speak a minimum amount of broken Hinglish (Hindi-English), and I quickly realized that he was telling me that I needed to come with him for something regarding a motorbike.
So I followed Suresh up to the gates of the property to see four guys standing talking. All of them turned to look at me as I approached, and in the middle of their little chat session a shit-hot, red motorbike became visible.
Since arriving to YogaGypsys, I had inquired with Ganesh, one of the site managers, about renting a motorbike. I enjoyed riding the shared bike, I wanted something that I could use for a five-day adventure to see more of Goa. Each day I would ask him if a bike would arrive that day. Each day he would raise his eyebrows and say, “Oh, you still want motorbike?” It started becoming a running joke in my head, as I had begun to doubt whether or not he would actually connect me with someone who could provide a rental.
The guys opened their circle to me, as if this was some sort of grand ritual where I might actually be marrying the motorbike. I asked how much, he told me 350 Rupees per day (the equivalent of approximately 7 American dollars). My general approach when traveling is to barter or negotiate for a lower price, as is customary in many cultures across the globe, especially for inflated foreigner rates. But I was deeply enchanted by the shininess of this crotch-rocket purring before me. And I immediately said, “Okay.”
There was a vast smile across my face.
So now I have a motorbike in my possession. And I have a familiar sensation of excitement at the thought of a new toy – like when I was seven years old and I received a new Transformer figurine (read: My Little Pony). On Tuesday, I shall set off south down the coast to see more of the state of Goa, using the Arabian Sea as my compass. And I know this is not the full actualization of the dream to ride a motorbike across India; it’s more of a taste test than the full meal deal. But it’s a step in the right direction. And I’m not in a rush to scratch off items on my list of adventures.
The list of dreams is beautiful in and of itself.
Sitting in front of rice fields.